They say you don’t truly love something until it is gone. This is not entirely true for me. I loved him when he was alive and well, and I still love him now, because who couldn’t? If angels do exist, he was one of them. And I was one of the many that had the immense pleasure of knowing Stevie Landau.
It’s weird how after you lose something, the things that seemed insignificant at the time become much more vivid. Ever since Aug. 16, 2014, a sort of montage plays in my mind. It is of a day I spent with Stevie. A summer day. My favorite day. The tangerine day.
It was the first time Stevie had ever been to my house. I was nervous. Although it seems somewhat ridiculous now, because he was not a judgmental person, Stevie was the type of guy you wanted to impress. I figured if Stevie had fun at my house, he would go tell his legion of friends, and they would all be jealous and want to come to my house too.
I scrambled for something to do. Stevie, being Stevie, did not wait for me to come to any such conclusion. He walked over to the long cord attached to my fan and swung it violently this way and that. He then began to jerk his body around underneath it in an equally animated way.
For a moment, I just stared at him wondering what in the world he was doing as he violently convulsed under the cord that was now firmly wrapped around one of the fan blades.
After an embarrassing amount of time, I realized that he was playing a sort of game in which the cord couldn’t touch you. I joined in tentatively, and we took turns whipping the cord about and ducking underneath it.
After our surprisingly physically strenuous activity, we made the unanimous decision to go downstairs and get a snack. It was summertime, so we had a bowl full of ripe tangerines on the table. Stevie picked a particularly large one off of the top. Now see, a normal person would just peel it and eat it, but Stevie, once again being Stevie, decided to turn the tangerine into yet another game. We rolled that poor tangerine down all three staircases, used it as equipment in a twisted game of wiffle ball, and stuffed it into my dad’s pillow to see if he would notice. I believe at one point, we even threw it at the ground as hard as we could to see if it would bounce. It did not.
At the end of the day, as daylight waned and we sat on my kitchen counter to recover from the days taxing activities of running away from fan cords and testing the limits of one fated tangerine, Stevie had an idea.
Stevie held the tangerine in his hand, if you could even call it a tangerine, grimacing at its shriveled and discolored appearance, and at what I’m sure felt like a slightly slick deflated balloon. He looked at me in a way I will never forget. His aqua eyes got all big and round and his dimples deepened, accompanied by a slant of the eyebrows that could only mean mischief. Without so much as a word, he bit into that disgusting excuse for a tangerine and let its soupy contents spill out into his lap. I could have laughed, I could have pointed, I could have asked him why in the world would he do such a thing, but something I can’t explain compelled me to take the tangerine straight out of his sticky hands and take a bite out of it myself. While I’d rather wipe all memories of the taste of that repulsive tangerine from my mind, every other aspect of that day with Stevie are welcome to me at any time. It was simple; Stevie had to be followed, and I followed him until the end.
Other, less welcome montages also visit me frequently. Another summer day. A day that started happy and ended sad. The day of the call.
My friend had just turned 13. She held a pool party. We had already spent the day performing what I’m sure were lackluster dives and drinking tall glasses of cool lemonade, tiny umbrella and all. It was a totally cliche summer day of sunshine and bliss. Having had a busy day, my pre-teen flip phone had been off and tucked in my bag for several hours. I would later find out that while I was off playing with beach balls and blushing at lifeguards, one of my close friends would pass away.
I remember this moment clearly. The minute I turned my phone on, it blew up. Two hours ago: did you guys hear what happened? 90 minutes ago: Yeah. We should all find time to talk about it. An hour ago: he was such a nice guy. 45 minutes ago: School is going to feel different now. I wasn’t putting it together. Move on to the voicemails. Six. The first one; “We have some bad news . . .”
The car ride home was the longest of my entire life. My friend and I held hands so hard that it hurt.
Then came the funeral. It was both comforting and distressing to see so many of my peers there, feeling vulnerable that they could witness my grieving but knowing that they, too were grieving. Having my friends at my side made the day slightly more bearable, but none of us were prepared for an open casket, and the Stevie inside that didn’t look like Stevie at all.
What made everything worth it was the look of pure relief on his mother’s face when she saw us, and her encircled arms paired with a whispered, “He really loved you, girls.”
Four years, five months, and 10 days from when he passed, I can’t say that I have ever known a love quite like mine for Stevie, because it was special to him. All that sappy stuff you hear about the room lighting up when a person walks in — their smile healing a sore heart, their laughter being the best medicine — was all miraculously true about Stevie. I sincerely wish everyone had just our tangerine day with Stevie. He fit in with anyone and everyone, and thank god, because those who knew him were all changed for the better. I know that somewhere up there, Stevie is smiling down with that killer grin of his. We love you. We miss you. Rest easy.